The Messiah was meant to be from Bethlehem, and surely the Bible does say so, but as Tim O’Neill notes, this was likely invented in order to shoehorn Jesus into messianic expectations, since the nativity stories are contradictory and ahistorical, so Jesus was likely originally from Nazareth, since if he wasn’t there would be no need to make up fake stories. So in light of this, and Micah 5:2, how could Jesus have been the Messiah?
I am tempted to return to Judaism, since even though I do believe Christ was resurrected, I also believe in a realm of hostile divine beings, who could easily do such.
Tim is addressing Jesus mythicism (the denial that Jesus was any kind of historical figure at all). I don’t see where he built any case that the Bethlehem part of the nativity stories must have been “invented”. His point was rather that, if the mythicism conjecture were true, that the stories would have dispensed with Nazareth entirely and just had Jesus growing up in Bethlehem where the messiah was supposed to be from.
But still, I don’t doubt that scholars can be found (even Christian ones) who see contradictions in the few nativity accounts there are, and on the strength of such inconsistencies are willing to push the idea that the nativity stories play fast and loose with actual history. You seem to want to run with the presumption that none of these arguments have been answered - they have.
But even if you still find yourself troubled (as you perennially seem to) that any part of it may seem stretched or contrived, or that the whole thing is not neatly tied up with a bow on top, you should ask yourself just what it is on which your faith is (or should be ) built? Is it built on a relationship with the living Christ? Or is it built on an intellectual edifice of perceived completeness and self-sufficiency? If it is the latter, I can save you some time and effort and assure you that the latter is guaranteed to disappoint. No matter what “faith” you land on, it will never be able to answer all questions for you or tie up every loose end.
In the end, even if some O.T. prophecies seem to have been “appropriated” and made to apply to Christ, one may also fairly ask (as we do), “why is that”? What is it about this figure in history that convinced so many that God’s words through Moses, the law, and the prophets actually must refer to Christ? There must have been something quite special about him indeed. Skeptics may write this all off as being circular. But at some point, the Christian has committed her/his life to Christ, and is then grafted into that vine [Christ]. At that point it is Christ (and no longer the signs that helped point us to him – such as the O.T.) that becomes our primary dwelling place and source. The testimonies of others --including the law and prophets of old, will have served their valuable purpose in leading us to Christ. But once we are so led, we don’t then go back and try to lean on the former things because of some perceived inadequacy of our Messiah. Once we are with the bridegroom, how can we go back to the things from before? [I mean … yes … we are weak and do things like that, but only when the fire of the spirit at times falters in our hearts and we are weak; not because that is what a Christian should always be doing.] Once people have found their way home, they aren’t always stepping outside of the town to check the road signs and make sure they are in the town they thought they were in. If it’s home, they already know it because they are already there. The road signs are for others still finding their way there, and are useful and necessary for that purpose. So I join with so many other Christians now who have learned to read the O.T. through and with the eyes of Jesus instead of trying to look at or evaluate Jesus on the strength of my understandings of the Bible. Jesus should be the given, which may put our O.T. (and even biblical understandings generally) in flux, rather than vice versa.
Anyway, that’s my morning ramble. Best wishes on your continued faith journey.
@Reggie_O_Donoghue, have you found a good church yet? C S Lewis’ recommendation was to attend the nearest Bible believing church he could (I don’t agree with all my church’s beliefs and maybe would be struck off the roster if going by the constitution, but the people really don’t care and like me anyway). It really has helped my wife and me to be involved in a Sunday morning group–not the whole church service as much as our 20-odd Sunday school group. We can discuss all sorts of things there, more than the church service.
Anyway–you have great thoughts but it has helped me to do that Thanks.
Great. I find the most help in the smaller group–maybe a Bible study? Half of my partners here are Catholic and they have Bible studies from time to time. But maybe it’s different there. I suppose there’s nothing that would keep you from attending the church and also a Bible study from another one in a neighborhood, though, if there isn’t one at your local church–I did that in residency.
I guess I am an Anglo-Catholic, I believe in Transubstantiation, clerical celibacy and monasticism, and believe divorce is wrong, yet I also believe in the protestant notion of salvation by grace through faith alone (specifically through predestination) and reject the use of Mary and Saints as mediators (though I ‘do’ believe in venerating saints). Simply put I see no issue with praying at both catholic and Anglican churches.
The importance of Bethlehem on the Bible is that it is the birthplace of David. Jesus was the Messiah in part because He was part of the royal line of David and thus the rightful king of Israel. There is no question about this in the NT even though there might be as to where He was born.
But Peter did not affirm that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God because Jesus showed him His birth certificate that proved He was born in Bethlehem.
The Hebrew word Messiah (Christ in Latin) means “the Anointed.” The basic meaning of this term is “chosen.” When God decided that Saul had failed as king of Israel God had Samuel anoint David, son of Jesse, as the next king of Israel to take place of Saul and his family when the time came.
Jesus is the Messiah because He is Chosen by God to save God’s People. If Jesus is not your Messiah, then you are not rescued from sin and death.
Speaking as a Protestant background believer currently attending a Baptist church, my first experience of significant empathy with praying to the saints occurred a couple of decades ago (yes, there’s a pun with the rosary, I know!) when my holy grandmother died. She was such a saint, always listening to us with great interest and praying throughout the day, that I missed her and wished that at least I could have her pray for me still. And then it hit me–who was to say she wasn’t? If you want a beloved, godly person to pray (and presumably godly folks have molded their wills to His enough that they pray in His will anyway), why wouldn’t you ask a departed saint to do that? I would agree she is not a mediator, and this sounds a bit odd-but only one step odder than asking someone to pray for you on earth.
In converse, C S Lewis said about praying for the dead something that led to his idea of Purgatory (something I do not really believe in, but in which I have empathy for him):
"Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?
"I believe in Purgatory.
"Mind you, the Reformers had good reasons for throwing doubt on the ‘Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory’ as that Romish doctrine had then become…
"The right view returns magnificently in Newman’s DREAM. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer ‘With its darkness to affront that light’. Religion has claimed Purgatory.
"Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ - ‘Even so, sir.’
"I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don’t think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.
“My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am ‘coming round’,’ a voice will say, ‘Rinse your mouth out with this.’ This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed.”
C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 20, paragraphs 7-10, pages 108-109
All this casts a different light on how we see godliness and God’s holiness.